The smart growth movement has long called attention to the problems with sprawl, but has often been focused on residential sprawl. Yet the dispersion of jobs into suburban and exurban office parks that can never be served by transit is just as much of a threat to the environment as residential sprawl, if not greater. To achieve a low-carbon future, Bay Area residents need to be able to commute to work without relying on a car.
SPUR argues that our best strategy to reduce job sprawl is to channel more employment growth toward existing centers, particularly the transit-rich downtown of San Francisco.
Other transit-served employment centers in the Bay Area, such as downtown Oakland and San Jose, as well as Concord and Walnut Creek, also should capture a growing share of regional employment. The success of the other transit-served job centers is key to a future Bay Area that uses less carbon. But most workers in these other locations, including downtown San Jose and Oakland, drive to work. Future SPUR reports will look at what can be done to improve the land use, urban design and transportation networks for the other employment hubs in the Bay Area.
But downtown San Francisco is the only employment node in the region where most people travel to work without bringing their own car. This paper focuses on downtown San Francisco as the node with by far the greatest near-term potential to accommodate regional employment growth with a low carbon footprint. In fact, if reducing emissions and the amount of driving was our only criterion, we would advocate a region that adds as much of its incremental growth as possible into San Francisco. Even if San Francisco retains its share of regional jobs (16 percent), the increase in driving and emissions in the suburbs will prevent the region from attaining climate change goals.
While done from an environmental perspective, this is an excellent plan all around. One question, though: with regard to the Market-Mission and Civic Center, is public safety the Chicken or the Egg?
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